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Dodgers-Reds Preview

AP - Sports

The Cincinnati Reds could possibly clinch the NL Central before taking the field Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers wouldn't mind if that happened.

The Reds (91-60) had a chance to lock up the Central in Friday's series opener, but Los Angeles (78-73) prevented the inevitable by winning 3-1 in 10 innings. Matt Kemp's two-out single with the bases loaded off Sean Marshall provided the difference.

"It was a good hit," Marshall said. "We'll have another chance to clinch (Saturday)."

They'll actually have two.

Cincinnati, 11 games ahead of St. Louis with 11 to play, can secure its second division title in three years with a win or a Cardinals loss in Chicago. First pitch at Wrigley Field is set for 1:05 p.m. EDT, three hours before this matchup at Great American Ball Park.

It's unclear whether manager Dusty Baker, who has been hospitalized in Chicago with an irregular heartbeat since Wednesday, will be able to attend.

"Of course, everyone in here and in the organization wants him to partake in this, but the reality is he's got to stay focused on getting healthy," bench coach Chris Speier said.

While a Chicago win would help a Reds team that really doesn't need any, it would be far more beneficial for the Dodgers.

Los Angeles has pulled within two games of the Cardinals for the NL's second wild-card spot with 11 left. The Dodgers, who won for only the fifth time in 15 games, are also one-half game behind Milwaukee.

"There's definitely a long way to go," Kemp said.

Pushing more runs across would certainly help in their playoff pursuit. The Dodgers won the opener despite finishing with three runs or less for the 12th time in 15 games.

"We haven't been doing too well getting hits with men on base," Kemp said. "We finally got the job done."

Kemp finished with three hits and is batting .364 with a homer and four RBIs during a five-game hitting streak after going 3 for 37 (.081) with one RBI in his previous nine. However, he's 3 for 16 (.188) with five strikeouts lifetime against scheduled starter Mat Latos (12-4, 3.76 ERA).

Although Latos has had Kemp's number, he hasn't enjoyed much success against the Dodgers, losing his last four starts despite recording a 3.20 ERA. This will be his first start against his former division rival since being acquired from San Diego in the offseason.

Latos allowed four runs and seven hits with eight strikeouts in 7 2-3 innings in a 5-4, 11-inning victory against Miami on Sunday. The Reds have won each of his last four starts, with the right-hander earning two victories while posting a 3.25 ERA.

The Dodgers counter with Stephen Fife (0-1, 2.49), who is set to make his fifth big league start.

After appearing in three games in July and early August, Fife got the call to take the start for the injured Clayton Kershaw on Sunday against St. Louis. The rookie put together an encouraging outing, allowing two runs and four hits while striking out nine and walking one in a 5-2, 12-inning loss.

"I was a little anxious, a little hyped up," said the 25-year-old right-hander, who struck out the side in the first and second innings.

He'll be facing a Cincinnati team that finished Friday with four hits and 14 strikeouts, one shy of a season high.

Joey Votto had one of the hits and is batting .370 during an eight-game hitting streak.

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